The Lio Tribe

Our latest foray into the tribal cultural of Flores was a visit to Wologai, a traditional Lionese village situated on a beautifully forested volcanic ridge an hour past Ende. (The topography of Flores is phenomenal.)

Wologai is one of the few villages in the Ende district with well preserved Lionese art and architecture. Because of its adherence to traditional building practices, the village serves as the location for several of the Lio tribe’s celebrations.

The villagers were friendly yet shy, and quite adamant that we Continue…

Three!!!

Apparently, the number 3 is very important to these Ngada kids. Unfortunately, we couldn’t figure out why. Three musketeers, three little pigs, three’s company, three strikes out, three stooges? It’ll just have to remain a mystery. 😉

The Ngada Tribe

Neila and Gregorius

One of the highlights of any trip to Flores is certainly a visit to the Ngada tribal villages near Bajawa. As with the Sasak tribe in Lombok, the Ngada are struggling to balance their ancient traditions with the curiosity of outsiders and gradual modernization.

We visited Luba and Bena to get a taste of Ngada culture. Unlike Sade in Lombok, the Ngada villages do not have a local guide system in place, which can make visiting the villages somewhat awkward. And for some reason, Frans left us to enter the village on our own. (I’m not sure what was going on there.)

Most visitors come to the villages to experience their impressive tribal art and architecture. But you really can’t just Continue…

The Sasak Tribe

Our journey across Nusa Tenggara, the island chain that stretches across central Indonesia from Lombok to Alor, should carry us through a series of different tribal groups that call the region their home. The Sasak people are the first of those tribes, and we had the opportunity to witness a bit of their life in the small village of Sade, located just 10 km north of Kuta, Lombok.

Sade is no isolated tribal enclave cut off from the outside world but rather a living village struggling to survive in the 21st century. Locals supplement agricultural income by selling their weavings and showing visiting tourists around their beautiful hilltop villages.

Having seen dozens of such tourist-oriented tribal villages around the world, I have to say I was quite Continue…

Saving Derawan’s Turtles

Derawan has no chic bars or dance clubs, yet the island boasts a very active nightlife. Well, our kind of nightlife. The only beat you’ll probably ever hear is your own heartbeat as you sit in the turtle hatchery and watch baby turtles emerge from their sandy nests. And nature’s DJ in all of this is John, the turtleman.

For the last two years, the Derawan local has been running the WWF turtle conservation project. With the help of two assistants, John spends his nights patrolling the beaches against poachers. Yes, turtle eggs and even turtles are in high demand, but John and his crew always Continue…

Malaysia Pictorial

From the futuristic Petronas twin towers to the stunning reefs of Sipidan, the colonial backstreets of Malacca and Penang to the wildlife of the great Kinabatangan River, Malaysia truly deserves the cliched title of “the land of contrasts.”

As we move on to the remote Indonesian state of Kalimantan in southern Borneo, we have put together another pictorial to capture just a bit of the visual overload in Magnificent Malaysia.

Mat Rempit

Just when you think humanity can’t get any dumber, a mat rempit speeds by you on the freeway and you suddenly realize that there is truly no limit to the depths of human idiocy.

Mat rempit are Malaysia’s weird cult of outlaw motorbike daredevils. Bands of these rebel bikers zoom through freeway traffic performing insanely dangerous stunts with little or no regard for others on the road. These boneheads crave acknowledgement – psychologists would have a field day with them.

Wherever you drive in Malaysia, mat rempit race by lying on their seats in a pose reminiscent of superman without a brain. The seriously challenged prefer to stand on their seats. Yikes! I personally don’t care if they kill themselves – I just don’t want to have to watch it, or worse, have them take me with them in a massive freeway pile-up.

While such activities are illegal in Malaysia, estimates of as many as 200,000 mat rempit in the country mean Continue…

Gay in Malaysia

The fact that June is LGBT pride month in the United States is making me reflect on the (in)equality of gays and lesbians in other parts of the world. As a gay traveler, I’m always hyper-aware of countries where I could be punished simply for who I am.

Malaysia is one of those countries where homosexuality is illegal. The dual legal system which applies both secular law to the population at large as well as Islamic law to the Muslim population can make life quite difficult for the Muslim LGBT community here. In addition to being punished in the Malaysian civil court, gay Muslim Malaysians also have to face the Sharia court. Penalties for being gay range from fines to imprisonment to caning. It’s a scary thought.

To learn more about the realities of life for the GLBT community here, I sat down with 33-year old Anuar, the gay Malaysian owner of our guesthouse in Kuala Lumpur. The interview revealed some surprising realities for gays and lesbians living in Malaysia. Continue…

Returning to Kota Bahru’s Central Market

The colorful central market in Kota Bahru holds a special place in my heart. I first visited in 1991 while traveling from Bangkok to Singapore via the famous Malaysian jungle railway. Despite the fact that I have been to a thousand markets across the world from Guatemala to Ethiopia to Tibet, this particular market remains one of my absolute favorites. I was eager to bring Thomas here to experience the visual feast.

And while a host of modern grocery stores are starting to erode the importance of this fabulous institution, it remains the highlight of any visit to the city. The colorful vegetable stalls and beautifully dressed Malay saleswomen are still very much present, although not quite in the same numbers as in 1991. It was also quite interesting to note Continue…

Fun with Locals

Although Tony mentioned growing conservatism among Muslim minorities in Southern Thailand in Burkas and the Art of Roti Canai, there’s obviously another side to the story. Young girls are still young girls, with or without headscarves. These girls were especially outgoing, stopping us to take our picture on Koh Tarutao. When we asked to take their photo, the girls struck a pose. Let’s just say there was a lot of giggling, and not just from us. 😉